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May 15, 2018

Incentives to spur tower, broadband development

Calvert Crossland has chosen seven areas — Botha, Catlett, Hume, Orlean, Rectortown, The Plains and Warrenton — where it hopes to construct six towers.
The challenge we’ve had is getting towers built in this county. We all want certain towers in certain locations. And every year, we’re lucky if we can get two.
— Cedar Run District Supervisor Rick Gerhardt
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Staff Journalist
The Cedar Run District supervisor wants to ramp up Fauquier’s efforts to extend broadband internet service to rural areas.

“The challenge we’ve had, quite frankly, is getting towers built in this county,” Rick Gerhardt told fellow board members during a work session last Thursday. “We all want certain towers in certain locations. And every year, we’re lucky if we can get two.”

That could change soon.

The county supervisors on May 10 unanimously approved an incentive plan to help Baltimore-based Calvert Crossroad LLC build six telecommunications towers.

Under the five-page agreement, Calvert Crossland would get as much as $30,000 annually, per tower for up to five years.

In exchange, Fauquier would get a “place” on each tower at no cost that it could sublease to a broadband provider. Alternatively, Calvert Crossing could lease the space to a broadband company.

Calvert Crossland Principal Barb Pivec described the $30,000 figure as an “average” placement fee for telecommunications equipment on a tower in the Fauquier market.

“We cannot build a tower without a market tenant” such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint, Ms. Pivec explained in a telephone interview. “Typically, commercial communications tower rates do not fit into a broadband carrier’s economic model.”

But, the $30,000-per-year payment would allow her company to construct a tower “with a broadband tenant, while we’re working towards securing our market tenant,” she said.

“The agreement will help bridge the gap so broadband providers can have the opportunity to be on air at a faster rate,” added Ms. Pivec, whose company last year constructed the 140-foot monopole near Casanova.

The contract calls for Fauquier to begin making monthly payments of $2,500 for up to five years to the company only after each of the planned towers “is fully erected and functional.”

But, “as soon as one of the majors takes a position on the tower, our obligation” to make the monthly payments “is gone,” Mr. Gerhardt said. “So when AT&T hangs, or Verizon, or Sprint hangs equipment on that tower, our obligation is gone.”

Calvert Crossland has chosen seven areas — Botha, Catlett, Hume, Orlean, Rectortown, The Plains and Warrenton — where it hopes to construct six towers.

“These are already identified search rings for Verizon,” Mr. Gerhardt said.

That suggests to him the telecommunications giant could install equipment on towers in those areas, relieving Fauquier of its monthly $2,500 payments to Calvert Crossing sooner rather than later.

Monthly payments would be covered by the $20 million set aside in Fauquier’s five-year capital improvements plan to extend broadband to unserved and underserved areas in the county.

Each of the towers Calvert Crossland wants to build would exceed 80 feet. Because of that, the county zoning ordinance requires the company to get special exception permit approval from the supervisors for each structure.

The special exception review process involves a public hearing before the county planning commission, which makes land-use recommendations to the supervisors.

The supervisors, who have final authority, also must conduct public hearings on special exception requests before acting.

On Thursday, May 17, the county planning commission will conduct a public hearing on Calvert Crossland’s special exception permit application to construct a 195-foot tower on 61.2 acres at 3590 Rivenoak Lane near Goldvein. John B. and Siobhan Woodward own the property.

The planning commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the Warren Green Building at 10 Hotel St. in Warrenton.

The tower-construction incentive will not apply to the proposed Goldvein project.
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Jim Griffin · May 18, 2018 at 6:07 pm
Facebook comment from Tom Frederick: Comcast has "exclusive rights to Fauquier"?

Explain, please? How does Verizon operate in Fauquier? Or Blaze Broadband, to name a few. Are they violating what you call Comcast's "exclusive rights"? Genuinely interested in a better understanding and ready to learn. Educate us.

Why would Paul Conlin of Blaze Broadband -- local expert in broadband deployment (I've met him and feel sure he is both knowledgeable, experienced and motivated) praise the tower move if it weren't useful in getting broadband to Fauquier, his primary mission?
nonewtaxes · May 18, 2018 at 11:15 am
Hard work and good work ain't the same thing.
Jim Griffin · May 17, 2018 at 7:49 am
When asked about his motivation to write new songs, and which came first -- lyrics or melodies -- Cole Porter said it was simple: It was the phone calls. Commerce. Calls to action.

Credit Rick Gerhardt with the progress we are beginning to see. He's making lots of phone calls and contacts that stimulate commerce in this area. We're all the beneficiaries.

Thank you, Rick Gerhardt. Your care, concern and action are exemplary.
BJ · May 17, 2018 at 7:25 am
We live out by Casanova, and what a difference it has made in our reception with the new tower. Dominion is burying new cable! Have taken more then a few hits from recent windstorms and downed trees on power lines, that would be a wonderful improvement, and improve the view if they remove the poles.
nonewtaxes · May 16, 2018 at 2:03 pm
No naysayer here JG. All for progress just not for progress at any cost.

To me, the BOS looks desperate for broadband. So desperate in fact that they are building a product and they don't know if they can sell it. Sounds like the museum project - they bought it and nobody came.

Good for you re: fiber.

Jim Griffin · May 16, 2018 at 7:11 am
Change is afoot despite the claims of naysayers: Verizon wrote me this week with an offer to upgrade our copper T1 to fiber. They said they intend to generally upgrade copper in the area to fiber.

In addition, Dominion is upgrading our electric service, burying new cable where we currently use less reliable poles.
nonewtaxes · May 15, 2018 at 6:06 pm
So the BOS is paying a company to build towers but the BOS doesn't have any broadband/cell company under contract to install gear on those towers? What a bunch of dumba$$es.
Paul Conlin · May 15, 2018 at 3:41 pm
Blaze Broadband currently broadcasts from 105 ft elevation on the water tower in Catlett. Anyone who can see this water tower from their roof can get Internet service today. Blaze also broadcasts 1,300 ft above Hume. We are using 5G Hz equipment so anyone with a clear view of Rattlesnake Mountain can get Internet, home phone, and WiFi calling cell phone service. Blaze has other sites too but there is a long way to go to get coverage for everyone. It is good to see the County continues to work on this difficult problem of rural broadband. New broadcast sites in the right locations would be welcome. Assuming the local residents approve of the tower in their neighborhood.
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